As you continue running, you’ll likely begin to discover that being a long-term runner involves so much more than keeping up with your training runs. If you’re hoping to run for any length of time, being proactive in preventing injury is key to long term success. So what’s the best way to prevent injuries?
Bodyweight strength training exercises.
Maintaining running fitness involves keeping all of your muscles strong and active. Failing to do so can eventually result in muscle imbalances, which can lead to inactive muscles while others are overworked and overused.
Related: The Best Way to Find and Fix Muscle Imbalances
Many running injuries are a result of overuse, or wear and tear caused by continuous running while lacking sufficient strength.
Bodyweight exercises are a great way to maintain strength and balance amongst all of your most important running muscles. Completing these simple exercises on a regular basis helps keep your entire body strong, setting you up for success on the run.
These bodyweight exercises for runners are ideal because they involve very little – no equipment is needed. Each exercise strengthens various running muscles, including those that you may not even realize you are using (like your core or back).
And the best part – it’s easier than ever to incorporate these simple bodyweight exercises into your running routine.
Spread them up throughout the week by completing a few exercises after each run, or complete them all on your strength training day for the ultimate bodyweight workout for runners.
These exercises will help you stay strong, reduce your chance of injury, and set you up for new PRs and success on the run. Taking the time to complete these effective at home exercises is a great way to enhance your training plan and stay with the sport throughout life.
14 Must Do Bodyweight Exercises for Runners
The only difference between a sumo squat and a regular, classic squat is the distance between your feet. In a sumo squat, you’ll want to spread your feet apart significantly wider than hip width distance. Doing so engages your glutes, inner thighs and calves even more so than a regular squat.
This bodyweight exercise is a great way to keep your quadriceps, glutes, IT band and inner thighs active and engaged on the run.
The jump squat involves completing a regular squat exercise, but instead of simply rising back up to standing, you will jump into the air as you extend your legs. Once you land with both feet on the floor, lower down into your next squat.
This plyometric exercise takes the strengthening benefits of a standard squat to an entirely different level by adding an element of balance. Each repetition helps you strengthen your quadriceps, glutes, knees, calves and ankles.
Single Leg Squats
This final squat variation is one of the most challenging. To complete a single leg squat, you’ll need to squat while balancing on a single leg.
This bodyweight exercise is an excellent way to isolate different muscles, detect any muscle imbalances, and avoid overuse injuries due to inactive muscles. A single leg squat strengthens your hips, glutes, inner thighs, IT band, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and ankles, all in one movement.
Adding a simple “walk” to your regular lunges is a great way to avoid taking unnecessary breaks and incorporate a motion similar to running. Rather than stepping forward for a lunge and then returning to your original standing position, take a step forward with your back foot once you have completed a lunge, as if you were walking forward.
This exercise is a great way to strengthen running-specific muscles, such as your quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings.
Rather than taking a step forward after completing a lunge, this exercise involves jumping into the air while simultaneously switching legs. You’ll want to land with the opposite foot forward and quickly dip down to complete the next lunge.
This plyometric exercise takes the strengthening benefits of a lunge to an entirely different level by adding an element of balance. Not only will you strengthen your running muscles, but you will be forced to balance as you land back on the floor, engaging your calves, ankles and core.
The final lunge variation involves taking a step out to the side, rather than in front of you. Continue with the same lunge motion, but simply step out directly to the side instead of forward.
This bodyweight exercise engages your glutes, inner thighs and IT band more so than the typical forward facing lunge.
This simple exercise involves lifting your hips off the floor to form a diagonal plank between your knees and shoulders. Begin by simply lying on your back, and then lift your hips up off the floor. Lower back down to the floor and complete various repetitions.
Bridges are an especially important bodyweight exercise for runners, as they strengthen the frequently neglected areas such as the hips, glutes, core and back.
Single Leg Bridge
This bridge variation is a great way to provide isolated strengthening to each side of your body. This exercise begins in the same way as a regular bridge, by lying on your back, but rather than simply lifting your hips, you’ll want to lift one foot off the floor and then use a single leg to lift your hips.
Single leg bridges are an excellent way to isolate each side of your body, check for imbalances, and provide targeted strength training to those particularly troublesome muscles.
A plank is a bodyweight exercise that every runner should get in the habit of completing on a regular (at least weekly) basis. You can choose between an elbow or straight arm position, as both provide equal strengthening benefits. Simply hold this plank position for anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes for a plethora of isometric strengthening.
A regular plank is a great way to strengthen your entire core and back. Having a strong core is a great way to maintain proper form as a runner, provide extra strength when your legs start to fatigue, and help avoid injuries caused by poor form.
This plank variation involves balancing one foot on top of the other in either a straight arm or elbow side plank position. You can choose to extend your upper arm straight up towards the ceiling to help balance, or simply place it on your side.
Side planks provide various strength training support for your hips, IT band, glutes, and entire core, particularly the abs on each side.
This bodyweight exercise is an incredibly simple exercise that packs a lot of benefits for runners. Complete leg lifts with one leg at a time, rotating through all four positions: lying on your back, on your left side, on your stomach and on your right side. Be sure to keep your leg straight while lifting it into the air.
Leg lifts provide well-rounded strengthening benefits when completed on all four sides of your body. You’ll strengthen everything from your hips and glutes to your core, back, IT band, inner thighs and quadriceps.
Another simple, bodyweight exercise that targets those troublesome, neglected running muscles. Lying on your side with your legs stacked, simply bend your knees and then lift the top knee into the air. This motion creates a clamshell shape between your legs and knees.
Clamshells provide a great deal of targeted strength training for your hips, IT band, glutes and inner thighs. This exercise is a great way to keep the muscles around your knee strong to prevent knee pain and general wear and tear on the run.
Beginning on your hands and knees, simply kick on foot into the air as if leaving a footprint on the ceiling. Keep your leg bent at a 45 degree angle the entire time, never straightening your leg.
This bodyweight exercise really helps improve the strength of your glutes, back and IT band to keep those muscles active and engaged on every run.
It’s hard to top the simplicity of this bodyweight exercise. Begin by lying face down on the floor, with your arms stretched out above your head. Simply lift your arms and legs simultaneously, keeping them straight the entire time.
Superman lifts target the entire backside of your body to help even out your strength training. Each repetition engages your shoulders, upper and lower back, glutes, hamstrings, calves and ankles.
Including these bodyweight exercises in your training routine on a regular basis is a great way to stay injury free while training for a goal. This simple bodyweight workout for runners will enhance your training and keep you feeling strong on the run.
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